Agent or No Agent: Which is Better?

There was a question posed today on my forum about whether one should have an agent or not.

Below is a partial C&P of the response I made on the forum about agents:


Any legitimate agent will not charge a penny until your manuscript is sold. Now, some agents charge a percentage and some will charge a percentage and some itemized fees, like long distance calls, postage, etc…. both are standard in the practice, but you should never ever ever pay an agent anything upfront nor should you have to pay an agent a reading fee, nor should you have to pay an agent a monthly maintenance fee or an account set up fee.

Let me say it again: a legitimate agent will not charge you a single penny unless/until they sell your manuscript to a publisher!

Now, as to the age-old question about whether you should get an agent or not… it’s a tossup really.

All of the major publishers, the big sisters in the publisher world, require an agent or for you to know someone in order to submit a manuscript. These are the companies who are offering those 6-figure plus advances and then own your soul for a few years after. If you want a deal like that with one of the big publishers whose names we all know like the back of our hand, then you will have to get an agent, period.

But below those big-wig publishers are imprints of the same big-wig publishers and other large publisher that don’t all require agents. Now, the rumor is, agented submissions often get preferential treatment. Sometimes an agented submission bypasses the slush pile straight to an editor, because that’s what an agent does, or should do – they don’t just submit for you, but they foster relationships with publishers and editors, so that when an agent calls on a publisher and says, “I’ve got just what you’re looking for,” the publisher/editor knows the agent is well-versed in what each editor is looking for and providing only manuscripts that fit that need.

All that being said, some writers have landed decent deals with mid-sized to even larger publishers without an agent.

P&E has a listing of all agents they are aware of – both good and bad – with the reasons why they are good or bad, user complaints, etc, and they are an exceptional resources.

I am looking for an agent…. I will still submit to unagented mid-sized publishers on my own though too.

Thing is, it’s really up to you… some writers will tell you an agent is a waste of money while others will tell you that you’ll never make it big without one… I think it’s all a matter of how you play the game whether an agent works for you and your type of writing or not.

I want an agent, because the one publisher I dream of being published with will only accept agented manuscripts. I’m going to write it to their liking, try to secure an agent I know who has placed with them before, and play the game the way it should be played.

But for some of my other manuscripts, I’ll probably keep looking around at mid-sized publishers myself.

Agents take anywhere from 5-25% of whatever the deal is they can make for you. 10-15 is standard, if you get 5, I’d worry about their legitimacy, and anything over 20 (without certain rights and other benefits) is probably getting too high.

An agent can also charge for certain ‘extra’ things, like the cost to make copies of the manuscript, the cost for long distance calls, etc… BUT they don’t charge for these itemized things until they’ve made a deal for you and then like an attorney almost (and some attorneys are agents) they will list the costs and itemize it. When the publisher pays the advance and then the subsequent royalties, they pay it to the agent, and then the agent takes out their percentage and itemized things and then remits payment with a statement to you.

If you are going with a small to mid-sized publisher that doesn’t have shelf placement with a major retail bookstore or which doesn’t have good distribution set up, you’re not going to be making much money, and giving away that much of it to an agent is going to really bite into your profit, if there even IS any.

Only you can decide whether an agent is going to benefit you or not. I’d say if you are unpublished, self published or have only published with small houses and do not yet have shelf placement on a book, haven’t received a sizable advance, and you believe your writing is better than the shake it’s been given, seek an agent who can help you get that fair shake.

Otherwise, you might want to try it on your own with some mid-sized publishers who have acquired shelf placement in major retail bookstores… worst they can do is say no, and then you can tweak, edit, resubmit or start searching for an agent then. The only thing you really have to lose at that point is time.

Anyhoo, that’s my ramble about agents today….

Any questions? Comment?

Love and stuff,